It’s September and time for a new Online Reading Challenge! This month, with school swinging back in session and autumn weather (hopefully) approaching, what could be more inviting than books about books?
As you might guess, there are a number of books written about books, or books that center around bookish things. And, there is a book about books for every reader! Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – The town of Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds that Amy’s funeral has just ended. Luckily, the townspeople are happy to look after their bewildered tourist–even if they don’t understand her peculiar need for books. Marooned in a farm town that’s almost beyond repair, Sara starts a bookstore in honor of her friend’s memory. All she wants is to share the books she loves with the citizens of Broken Wheel and to convince them that reading is one of the great joys of life. But she makes some unconventional choices that could force a lot of secrets into the open and change things for everyone in town.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Slone – The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone – and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore. Bonus glow-in-the-dark cover!
The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer – Seen earlier on this blog, this book tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, later became one of the world’s greatest and most brazen smugglers. In 2012, thousands of Al Qaeda militants from northwest Africa seized control of most of Mali, including Timbuktu. They imposed Sharia law and threatened to destroy the great manuscripts. As the militants tightened their control over Timbuktu, Haidara organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.
The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde – Beginning with the Eyre Affair, this alternate history – surreal and hilariously funny – will appeal to lovers of zany genre work and lovers of classic literature alike. The scene: Great Britain circa 1985, but a Great Britain where literature has a prominent place in everyday life. In this world where high lit matters, Special Operative Thursday Next (literary detective) seeks to retrieve the stolen manuscript of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit. The evil Acheron Hades has plans for it: after kidnapping Next’s mad-scientist uncle, Mycroft, and commandeering Mycroft’s invention, the Prose Portal, which enables people to cross into a literary text, he sends a minion into Chuzzlewit to seize and kill a minor character, thus forever changing the novel. Worse is to come. When the manuscript of Jane Eyre, Next’s favorite novel, disappears, and Jane herself is spirited out of the book, Next must pursue Hades inside Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. The cartoonish characters are either all good or all bad, but the villain’s comeuppance is still satisfying. Witty and clever, this literate romp heralds a fun new series set in a wonderfully original world.
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler – Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home – a house, perched on the edge of a bluff, that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. His younger sister, Enola, works for a traveling carnival reading tarot cards, and seldom calls. On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller. The book tells the story of Amos and Evangeline, doomed lovers who lived and worked in a traveling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes, sketches, and whimsical flourishes; and his best friend and fellow librarian, Alice, looks on in increasing alarm. Why does his grandmother’s name, Verona Bonn, appear in this book? Why do so many women in his family drown on July 24? Could there possibly be some kind of curse on his family – and could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in six years, risk the same fate in just a few weeks? In order to save her – and perhaps himself – Simon must try urgently to decode his family history while moving on from the past. Enthusiastically recommended by our Customer Service Supervisor!
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction. Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option – because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself.
Ann (your regularly scheduled host) reports that her choice for this month is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. She and I have very different tastes, so I’m going with the comic book series Rex Libris by James Turner and I’ll also be paying another visit to Mr. Penumbra.
What about you? What are you going to read this September? Let us know in the comments!
A few more suggestions:
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabielle Zevin
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Fowler
Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living With Books by Michael Dirda
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
A Likely Story: A Library Lover’s Mystery by Jenn McKinlay
The Forgers by Bradford Morro
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon